Report from 14 June 2017 Community Meeting

The meeting was attended by c.50 people including members of the CAG Liaison Group (Lori Streich, Simon Lewis, Pete Bullard, Jeff Butterfield, Janine McCretton, Prue Hardwick, Julian Mellor), PG Group (Stuart Gaiger, Sam Woollcott and Jenny Gee), residents, councillors, reps of local and interested organisations, and media. Lori Streich, Chair of CAG, chaired the meeting.

Stuart Gaiger introduced the PG Group and their proposals for the Carriageworks.

  • PG Group has been developing property in Bristol since 2002. They tend to focus on residential schemes including new build, conversions and listed buildings. They work either in or within about 2 hours of Bristol, but Bristol is their focus. In the past they have taken on tricky and challenging sites (e.g. Bedminster Parade) but the Carriageworks will be the most challenging to date.
  • PG Group are buying the Carriageworks site. Stuart Gaiger stressed that Opecprime (the current owners) cannot pull out of the sale.
  • PG Group will deliver the scheme that went to Planning Committee in October 2015 so they will not be seeking to change the height, scale, mix or number of units. Appointment of the design team (architects, engineers, contractors etc) will be complete within the next month or so.
  • Construction will start in early 2018. The build programme will last 18-24 months, so aiming at completion in Autumn 2019.
  • Jenny Gee will provide community engagement on behalf of PG Group. She praised CAG for its work to date and is keen we work together. She will setup a website that will provide updates on progress with the proposals and enable people to leave comments.

Lori Streich stressed that CAG is committed to work with any developer that delivers the Community Vision. The details of how CAG and PG Group work together will evolve in time but at the very least we have a role defined by the planning permission.

There was then discussion between people attending and PG Group the main points of which were:

Site Acquisition

  • Can we be clear that Comer are not imposing any staged conditions along the way, that it is an outright sale?
    • SG: That is correct.
  • Can PG Group walk away?
    • SG: No. We’re committed.
  • Does PG Group own other properties in Stokes Croft?
    • SG: No

Vision

  • CAG has worked to change the scheme to get more vibrancy and connections with the neighbourhood. The site will direct the future direction of Stokes Croft, it is talismanic. How visionary will you be? Could there be parts of the scheme in community ownership? Need to make it really great – a benchmark for here and the rest of the country. Will you do something that is genuinely extraordinary and truly amazing?
    • SG: Yes! We want this to be an exemplar scheme. We don’t want to build bland schemes. Currently working through the mundane stuff but happy to have dialogue. The more input, especially regarding the ground floor, the more life we give to those areas. The units are more suited to small traders – we can do something different. We are under no illusion how important those buildings are. We support the Community Vision.
  • Commitment to community:
    • SG and SW: We are very vested in Bristol. All the money we have made on other schemes will be spent on this one. Our reputation in the city is important. A poor scheme will not do us any favours.
  • Are the opportunities for investment of social capital that might deliver different aims?
    • SG: The scheme is fully funded. It’s worth having the conversation about social capital and where it might apply, but have to make sure we know what we’re getting into and that we can deliver.

Site Proposals

  • Development partners:
    • PG Group do not employ their own builders so will contract with a construction company. They are working through tenders but likely that it will be a Bristol firm.
  • Will you revisit 9% affordable housing? Involvement of RSL could benefit everyone.
    • SG: We have arranged to meet the Homes and Communities Agency (and willing to meet BCC as well) to see what potential there might be for change. Don’t want to make changes if it means that a new planning application is required (considerable time and cost implications), but open to dialogue if it can be done without needing a new permission. SG stressed that they want to deliver the best scheme for the area and that they are looking to do what they can.
    • Lori committed CAG’s help if it means the scheme gets closer to the Community Vision (which states “We want to see a true mix of housing types for sale and for rent including private and social housing, both low and high cost”)
  • Any scope for underground parking?
    • SG: Don’t intend to provide more than the 6 spaces in the permission. Would require new planning permission. Proximity to city centre means a car isn’t necessary. Anticipate there is very heavy stone not far below the surface which would rule out underground parking. There will be provision for commercial deliveries.
  • Is there a Registered Social Landlord involved?
    • SG: No – whole development will be delivered by PG Group.
  • Can Carriageworks restoration be delivered within constraints of the existing planning permission?
    • SG: Engineers will have to assess the building. We know some parts are lost (e.g. fire damaged floors). The fact that the building still stands c.10 years after fire damage is a good sign. We’ll know more in the next few months.
  • Rear wall of Carriageworks building is damaged and has little merit but its retention constrains use of the building.
    • Quentin Alder (Chair of BCC Conservation Advisory Panel): Listing is of the whole building. There is always a balance – if there is little historic fabric remaining there could be an argument to start again. Planners will have to assess this.
    • Chris Chalkley: Godwin would have questioned everything and say look at it again with fresh eyes. When built, the Carriageworks was all about the facade – the world’s first showroom.

Building Works

  • Phasing:
    • The scheme will be built as one phase although it is likely that some parts will be completed before others.
  • Presence on site:
    • Contractors will have site office. Likely that SG will be mostly based there.
  • What is happening with the Travellers on the site?
    • Prue: At both parties’ request CAG facilitated a meeting between the travellers and PG Group. They are now in direct contact and working with each other. CAG is still there if needed but otherwise we’ll let them get on with things.
  • Will there be road closures?
    • SG: Not yet at the stage of knowing. Contractor will put together a site access and delivery plan. Likely to be pavement closure outside the Carriageworks building. Will find ways of dealing with this closer to the time.
    • Lori: Likely to be tricky given site constraints. CAG has suggestions for Highways. Lets talk when we get there.

After Completion of Works

  • Post development management company:
    • Likely to be one company to maintain the residential areas and another to manage the ground floor.
  • Does PG Group intend to retain ownership of commercial units?
    • SG: Would like to retain, but key thing is to get the right occupiers, flavour and mix. Some may want to buy, others to rent. Nothing set in stone but definitely don’t want boarded up units or the wrong occupiers. Flexibility is key.

What would Godwin do?

People liked the idea that this would be a good question to ask as proposals develop.

What Happens Next?

  • PG Group will appoint design team and contractor
  • PG Group will carry out site surveys through the summer (access by arrangement with the site residents)
  • Next meeting with CAG in early September by when the site challenges etc will be better understood. Contractors will attend.

 

The Bristol Post also reported on the meeting: http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/landmark-bristol-building-derelict-30-112724

 

New Developer Confirmed

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The Carriageworks has a new developer!  Following much recent speculation the Carriageworks Action Group can now confirm that the new developer is the Bristol based PG Group. They have exchanged contracts with Opecprime (aka Comer Homes) to purchase the freehold of the Carriageworks and Westmoreland House site and aim to start building in January.

The PG Group have given us this statement to publish:

PG Group logo“The PG Group has acquired the site from Opecprime Properties Ltd with the benefit of the planning consent granted in July last year, and will now start work on a wide range of preliminary assessments,” said Stuart Gaiger, PG Group Development Director.

Mr Gaiger said purchase of Westmoreland House would allow the creation of a development that could contribute positively to an already vibrant community and that the company had already made contact with the Carriageworks Action Group with a view to keeping the community involved in the development of the projected scheme.

“We want to deliver an enterprising development that respects and reflects the community ethos and, given the independent spirit that flourishes around the area, we look forward to some lively and interesting discussions.”

Lori Streich, Chair of Carriageworks Action Group, said: “We welcome this news that PG Group are buying the Carriageworks and Westmoreland House site. For over 25 years the communities adjoining Stokes Croft have lived with the neglect and dereliction. As a local developer we hope that PG Group will have the skill and commitment to deliver a development of which the community can be proud”.

Stuart Gaiger and his colleagues from the PG Group will be attending the Community Meeting on Wednesday 14 June, 6pm at the Kings Centre, King Square where they will say more about their plans and proposals to get the development going.  Please come along to find out more and to pose any questions you may have.

Who are PG Group?

What are PG Group’s plans and timescale?

What’s happened to Fifth Capital?

Community Meeting, Wed 14 June

You might recall that at the last community meeting in April we heard that there is a Bristol based developer who is likely to take over development of the Carriageworks site from Fifth Capital.  We are not yet able to confirm the identity of that developer. However, we can with an optimistic tap on the keyboard invite you to a Community Meeting on Wednesday 14th June, 6pm at the Kings Centre, King Square.  Further details about the meeting will be published earlier that week but you might want to put the date in your diary – it should be worth coming along!

Lori and the Liaison Group

Notes of the Community Meeting on 24 April 2017

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Attended by: Lori, Prue, Pete, Jeff, Chris, Julian, Sarah, Kimberley, Rich, Mel, Clayton, Dominic, Danuta, Heather, John, Pauline, Inge, Joel, Harvey, Rachel, Janine, Lawrence, Rob, Mike, Simon, one other.

Update re Developer

Lori spoke to Marc Pennick of Fifth Capital in the morning. There is a Bristol based developer who is taking over the development of the site. This information has been confirmed by a number of separate sources.

The details of the take-over are not yet known but we think they are well advanced in buying the site from Comer / Opec Prime. We don’t know what the future involvement of Fifth Capital will be.

We will let the group know who the developer is as soon as we can. The Liaison Group is pushing for an early meeting with the new developer and will ask them to come to a community meeting as soon as possible.

We do not yet know if the new developer will build the scheme with planning permission but we anticipate that some amendments are likely. Dominic pointed out that any alterations will require a new consent. We must ensure that it is the Community Vision that guides decisions regarding any changes and that CAG is involved in the dialogue. Reminder of the number of comments we received when writing the Vision (1,600) and the number of objections to the first Fifth Capital planning application (1,400).

There was concern that a new developer will argue that some elements of the scheme are not viable and therefore need to be amended. We need to resist this. We can point to the amount of interest in the scheme (two RSLs, various users of the commercial space) plus rising values as evidence of viability.

Noted that the new developers need to realise that it is not just about them and that there are other stakeholders. They have to take us seriously. We have achieved a great deal so far and we will seek a positive relationship with the new developer, but we need to get around the table and talk so that we work with and not against eachother. We can help make the development exciting for the developer as well as us.

Community Ownership

Discussion about the potential for the community to have a real stake in the finished development and ensure it doesn’t become an exclusive development with little relevance to the surrounding area.

Previous meeting had discussed a direct approach to Comer (Lori reported that a letter had been sent and while we know it was received we have had no reply) with a view to buying an interest. Cost would be probably be £2-5m and then £20m to develop. Potential to place a Community Right to Bid order on the site – gives 6 months to submit an offer.

Alternative approach would be take on the market / commercial areas. Would need a cohesive legal entity / structure to do this. Possible interest from Stokes Croft Land Trust, Bristol Pound, Bristol Community Housing Trust and Hamilton House.

Agreed that CAG should take the lead on any discussions with the developer and with planners.

Site Occupiers

The site occupiers (travellers) were served a Notice of Trespass in March. Hearing was adjourned until 8 May at 3pm at County Court.

A representative of the occupants stated that they had anticipated 6 months notice to leave the site. Trespass papers were put on the gate in March. The occupiers have their homes there and for a generation have been keeping people out of the dangerous site. The Council were apparently involved in early discussions about them being on the site as well as someone from Comer. Having the site occupied would help keep the Council off Comer’s back, following a number of deaths on the site.

Lori explained that CAG had pressed really hard for dialogue between travellers and Marc Pennick (although it was Comer who issued the Notice of Trespass). Marc eventually agreed but Comer instructed him not to take part. We now need a dialogue with the new owners of the site.

We need to take into account the needs of residents as does the local authority. Discussion about how to support the travellers e.g. through donations. Agreed that this should be as individuals, not as CAG.

Keeping the site occupied until the day the builders take possession will be much cheaper than getting early vacant possession and then paying for 24 hr security.

Noted that there is a pre-commencement condition requiring a “Procedure for the sensitive relocation of the existing occupants of the site” (page 53 of Committee Report). However, planners have now told other officers that the notice to seek possession was nothing to do with planning.

Agreed by all that if we can have amicable conversation then it will go the right way.

Other sites in the area:

Discussion about other empty buildings and development sites.

  • Putterills building – empty and unused
  • Magpie building. John Dalton paid £300k for the site. Planning application for Change of Use A3 café restaurant. Already started major refurb of existing building – spending £400k. Building is in two parts: two storey fronting Picton St and single storery fronting Ashley Road. Current use is retail.

Inter-relationship of sites and transport policy. Metro mayor will be responsible for major routes inc. A38. Need to keep an eye on wider policies, agendas and proposals.

Compulsory Purchase

Is there a possibility of losing the money for CPO? Julian stated that funds were granted to BCC by HCA specifically for compulsory purchase of Westmorland House so cannot be put to other uses. Lori stated that if the development does not go ahead as anticipated we need to keep CPO as an option.

Proposal that until there is signficiant progress with the development the CPO process must continue. As this was felt to be a crtically important issue there was a vote on whether to agree the statement. Unanimously agreed.

Discussion about whether BCC could pursue CPO without a preferred developer. Thought that they could not but it may be possible for HCA. [Subsequent research found that “It may sometimes be appropriate for the Homes and Communities Agency to compulsorily acquire land which is in need of development or regeneration even though there are no specific detailed development proposals in place” Source: Guidance on Compulsory Purchase Process (pdf) page 47, para 93]

Could one of the PRS RSLs that were interested still be involved? CBRE have been working for Fifth Capital to find development partners. Presumably they will have been linking developers together as this would share the risk – it’s why people like joint venture.

Actions:

  1. Seek a meeting with the developer
  2. Work hard to get info from them into public domain
  3. Work with site residents to find ways to support them and for a dialogue for a planned way of moving
  4. See if HAs that have expressed an interest are still interested
  5. Seek expressions of interest in commercial space
  6. Investigate potential for communal ownership of parts
  7. Enter into constructive dialogue with planners to ensure that they and the developer work with CAG and hold to the conditions in the planning permission to work with the community
  8. Investigate HCA CPO rules re schemes and preferred developer
  9. Court case on 8th May at 3pm

Alternative developer? Key points from the Community Meeting

There is growing concern about the lack of visible action towards development on the Carriageworks site.  This has rekindled some of the dialogue within the community about the current plans for development.  If these seem too difficult to deliver, what about thinking about alternative approaches and about the actions we can take to move the development forward.

The community want to see the site developed in line with the CAG Community Vision, through whatever means/whichever developer.  There is concern that even though the Section 106 agreement was signed in June, the site is still owned by the Comers through their company Opecprime.

ACTION:  CAG, through the Liaison Group, was delegated to seek a meeting with the Comers to discuss unsticking the process.

There was a discussion about the price of the site.  If the site has to be Compulsorily Purchased (CPO), then the price would be market value.  If, however, a different arrangement not involving the Council was reached with the current owners, then there could be more latitude in the agreement of the price.

Given the seeming stalemate, the meeting would like to see the CPO process started up again.  This has to be led by Bristol City Council.  It is complicated by the fact that Fifth Capital have Planning Permission but ownership is still with Opecprime.

The meeting talked about setting up a development consortium to deliver community led plans for the site.  If this is the case and a consortium developed viable plans for the site, then it could become the “preferred developer”.  We have been advised that this would avoid the need for a full procurement process.  It would be up to the consortium to approach the Council to seek assistance to progress this idea.

ACTION:  BCC was asked to look into restarting the CPO process.

For a CPO to be successful, there needs to be a viable scheme.  Community members expressed considerable enthusiasm for the idea of a consortium to work up a scheme that would meet the Community Vision for the site, and be viable in terms of a CPO.   It was suggested a masterplan could form the basis for development being brought forward in phases and developed or sold to different developers.  Some people at the meeting wanted to be involved.  There was a discussion about what this means.  If we want this to move forward, consortium members have to be able to contribute real resources towards the design, finance and delivery of each part of the site.  Prue collected the names of people who are interested in setting up a development consortium.

The meeting agreed that we don’t need a “development brief” because this is captured by the Community Vision and the subsequent consultations about scheme design – carried out by Knightstone and Fifth Capital.  There has been a lot of discussion about what people want on the site.  What people want now is action!

ACTION:  CAG will convene a meeting in January for people who can contribute to a development consortium.

ACTION:  Can/will BCC Planning waive the fees for a planning application from a community led consortium?  This will be explored.

Carriageworks building:   There is a lot of concern about the continuing deterioration of the Carriageworks building.  Can notices be served on the owners for urgent works? The problem with this is that if the owner does not carry ouit the repair notice works Bristol City Council would have to do the works and pay the upfront costs, and then try to reclaim them.  While there is a pot of money for the Carriageworks, this is being held in case of the need for a site acquisition.

ACTION: CAG Liaison Group to explore with BCC how this money might be used (in the most creative ways!) so that we get the outcome we want – development of the site in line with the Community Vision – and protect the fabric of the Carriageworks building through this process.

ACTION:  If a development consortium is set up, this should explore grant funding for the historic building

ACTION:  BCC to establish the “curtilage” of the Listed Building.  This is the area around the listed building (Carriageworks) that is covered by the Listing.  It’s a technical issue but an important one that could help to bring in more resource for the development of the site.

Risks of the site:  Developing the site is complicated and there are many risks, including unknown ones.  For example…  Is the land contaminated? Are there issues about the water table? How unstable, or downright dangerous, are the buildings? And what does all this mean for the costs of redevelopment? There’s not an action arising from this point, but it’s worth bearing in mind.  Not knowing the risks makes it very difficult to establish the costs of redevelopment.  This is something that has to be addressed in drawing up alternative plans.

Ideas and moving forward:  At the end of the meeting, Lori (Chair) asked everyone to send their thoughts, ideas, intentions etc. to CAG via the comments section below (or click the speech bubble top right) or email  ideas@carriageworks.org.uk or Facebook

We look forward to hearing from you.

Lori Streich, Chair, Carriageworks Action Group

 

S.106 signed

We just heard yesterday that the S.106 Agreement has finally been signed and sealed and consequently the planning permission has been formally granted to Fifth Capital. This should open the way for the purchase of the site from Comer Homes and for redevelopment of the site to begin.

We are maintaining our dialogue with Marc Pennick, and will keep you informed about what will happen next.  Watch this space for news, and notice of the next community meeting. Cause for celebration maybe?

Notes from 2 June Community Meeting

Over 30 people came to the Carriageworks Community meeting on 2 June to hear the latest about proposals for redevelopment of the site.  Unfortunately, due to injuries recently incurred, we couldn’t be joined by Marc Pennick from developer Fifth Capital although he had provided updates to members of the CAG Liaison Group.

Planning permission

Last October the City Council’s Planning Committee resolved to give planning permission to Fifth Capital.  However, this isn’t formalised until the S.106 Agreement is completed (the agreement sets out undertakings by the developer to provide affordable housing and make payments towards various off-site works e.g. road improvements). Because it’s a binding agreement it has to be signed by the Council, the developer (Fifth Capital) and the landowner (Opec Prime / Comer Homes). The wording is all agreed but the landowner has yet to add his signature.

Ownership

Fifth Capital have a legal option to buy the site from Comer Homes. The option is triggered by the grant of planning permission which itself is dependent upon the signing of the S.106 Agreement. We understand that Fifth Capital will actually buy part of the holding company (Opec Prime), rather than take a conveyance of the site.

Timescale

Many people have said that progress on the scheme is very slow but this is often the case, especially with complex developments.  Members of the Liaison Group are keeping an eye on the situation and maintaining a dialogue with Marc about it.

Once planning permission is granted and Fifth Capital has taken ownership they will be able to progress with meeting all the pre-commencement conditions set out by the Council.  Once everything is submitted the Council has up to 8 weeks to give approval, but would hope to do it quicker. CAG will be consulted on some of the conditions but we hope that we will have been able to make constructive contributions well in advance of them being submitted to the Council.

Once the pre-commencement conditions are all met Marc will be able to start demolition.  He has told us that he hopes this to be in November this year.

Westmoreland House will be demolished and the Carriageworks stabilised so that further survey work can be undertaken. That will then enable detailed plans for the Carriageworks to be worked up which will then enable the main construction contract to be awarded.

Housing

Marc is holding discussions with a number of Housing Associations for them to buy the freehold of the completed development. One of them is considering using all but the 10 affordable units for private rented accommodation.  So every unit would be rented out by the Housing Association at market rents (not social rents and not affordable rents). This would mean that no units would be available for sale and that in turn would mean that there would be no buy-to-let landlords. This would be more in line with the European model where many people rent from institutional landlords with high quality terms and conditions. Elsewhere in Bristol there is much interest in developing an ethical private rented sector to replace sometimes expensive and poor quality buy-to-let landlords. Carriageworks could be trail blazer.

if the scheme does become private rented housing there are some questions about the 3 x 4 bed houses.  They would probably not let to families in the area given their level of rent.  Some proposals to reduce them to three bed (of which there are five currently proposed) or even to convert all the housing units to apartments.

Ground Floor

Back in December Spaceworks was being considered as the owner of the ground floor. However, their financial offer was a long way from what Marc could accept so that is no longer the proposal.  Instead Marc is thinking about taking a long lease-back of the ground floor from the Housing Association. He would then create a management company to take care of letting the commercial and community units while a specialist market operator would run the market. He is open to ways of the community being involved in how the ground floor is managed. Marc has visited the ground floor of Jamaica St studios and was very inspired by Jacknife and the PRSC pottery and would like to see similar businesses in the Carriageworks. There was much enthusiasm in the meeting to this approach – Marc seems to be speaking our language.

Discussion and Questions

How will the impact of the demolition be controlled? Answer: Via the construction management plan which has to be approved before any works begin. This will deal with site access, lorry movements, scaffolding, noise, dust etc etc.

What’s happening with the Travellers? Why the need to move out if there won’t be any work on site for some months. Travellers have provide good security for nine years. Communication with Marc has not been good. Note that children have been getting through a hole to play on the site. Travellers have prevented them and covered the hole but as future on the site is uncertain they can only do so much.

Discussion about what happens if Comer does not sign the S.106 Agreement.  Various options explored. Agreed that these need to be pushed via BCC if there is no progress by September.

Someone who was attending his first CAG meeting asked what CAG is trying to achieve. Answer was for the site to be developed in line with the Vision via the Fifth Capital proposals. Aside from a small number of abstentions everyone else agreed that this was the right approach.

Would right-to-buy apply to a Housing Association’s private rented units?  Answer: No.  As they are commercial the new law would not apply.

Comments: a) The Housing Act is still going through Parliament so there remains uncertainty about what Housing Associations will have to do or not do. b) Shared ownership does not always work for the Housing Association. Affordable and social housing are not synonymous. Affordable can be up to 80% of market value. c) If Bristol sets up its own Housing Company (as is proposed), it could buy the scheme (although noted that timescale for that may make it unrealistic).

Would private rented units be accessible to people on benefits? Answer: One of the Housing Associations that Marc is talking with has said that they would need evidence of income from employment for all tenants.  However, if a tenant is made redundant and then claims benefits they will have no problem with that so long as the rent continues to be paid.

Discussion about whether the scheme is addressing the real social need in Bristol. Suggestion that the 2011 consultation is out of date and that the Vision needs to be rethought with more social housing required. Other people pointed out that Carriageworks is doing better than many other developments in Bristol. Rethinking the plan would take years to resolve. If you keep rethinking it you never make progress.

Suggestion that losing the 4 bed houses should only be supported in return for more affordable units.

Suggestion that changing house sizes will require change to the planning permission. New housing focused agenda within BCC will be more likely to object.

Ground floor should create a magnet for the applied arts (reflecting Godwin’s work). This should be a feature of the cultural strategy that has to be written. Would be good to discuss with Marc at an early stage.

The groups that people signed up to in December have not yet had the chance to start – we really need Marc to complete the purchase of the site before any progress can be made.

Meeting ended at 8:40pm.  Agreed that the community now knows way more about planning and property development than we ever thought likely!

[Please note that these notes aim to give a logical account of discussions rather than an accurate chronological record]